Organs and Elements

A path to quiet meditation
By Mary Ann Peterson, LAc, MAcOM

“Try not to think. Quiet your mind.”

Meditation can sound daunting, mysterious. What is quiet? What is empty? It’s not completely understood. Much interest and information surrounds meditation, yet it remains elusive to many.

The main stumbling block is attaining inner quiet. “I can’t shut my brain off” is a common defeated observation.

How do you shut the brain off? Don’t try so hard. You can lead the brain down the path of peace by giving it a little something to do. You must engage your brain to soften your mind. If you give the brain a simple task, it can get on board with a zen state of mind. Think of your engine being on, but in neutral instead of drive—there is no need to force intention.

Learning to slow down and be still is helpful for each of us. Even five to 10 minutes of meditation makes a difference. Brief or imperfect meditation is better than no meditation.

There are hundreds of ways to meditate—the method I am advocating here is just one way. Inspired by yoga, qigong, human anatomy, and the natural underwater world, this meditation connects you with your internal organs. It is a scan of your vital organs—a way to say “hi” and appreciate and support the work they do for you. The overall intent is to generate kindness, calmness, wellness, and thoughtfulness.

This technique uses imagery. The imagery is your own body, internal organs, and ocean life. By using imagery, you invite your brain to be involved gently. It’s a way to touch base with your insides.

Hang in there, it isn’t that weird.

The meditation: an explanation, and a run-through

The organs of focus are the heart, spleen, lungs, kidney, and liver, in that order.

These are considered the yin organs in Chinese medicine. Each organ has a color, a positive nature, and an element that relates to it.

The yin contains our reserves. It supports and supplies our outer strength (yang).

Find a comfortable position. This can be sitting, standing, or lying down. Your eyes can be closed, or partially closed. Breathe comfortably. Don’t force any pattern of breathing.


Start with the heart: Picture where your heart is in your body. Feel it and sense its position.

With each breath, picture the heart gracefully expanding and contracting. Imagine it has the fluid movement of an undersea plant or animal that interacts and pulses with the currents to gather nutrients. Inhale/exhale, expand/contract.

Focus on this for 30 seconds to one minute. The image of the heart (as well as the other organs) is your choice. It can be anatomically correct or an artistic version that you create.

The heart element is fire. The color is red. Positive nature: joy.

Apply these attributes as you like. Picture the element, color, and nature. Simply saying it in your mind helps to bring up the visual.

Feel the breath, the expansion and contraction, both physically and emotionally.


Heart transforms to spleen.

Connect to your spleen. Inhale/exhale, expand/contract. It’s OK if you just have a vague idea (or no idea) where it is. Just focus on it.

Its color is yellow. Its element is earth. Positive nature: truthfulness, sincerity.


Spleen transforms to lungs.

Inhale/exhale, expand/contract. Use silver or white for the color. The lung element is metal.

Visualize and feel the full capacity of your lungs. Remember the flowing nature of sea plants. Make your lungs be that graceful. Make your breaths grounded, solid, comfortable.

Positive nature: generosity and integrity.


Lungs transform to kidneys.

Inhale/exhale, expand/contract. The kidney element is water. The color is dark blue. Think about the ocean at night.

Positive nature: wisdom, clear perception.


Kidneys transform to liver.

Inhale/exhale, expand/contract. The liver element is wood. Picture a tree or a piece of firewood. The color is spring green.

Positive nature: kindness and patience.

Focus on each organ for 30 seconds to one minute. Try to do it one to two times through the first time. Remember, just practicing it is a form of meditation—you will customize how many times through you need, or have time for.

It’s a great thing to practice when you are awake at night and can’t go back to sleep.

Linking the elements and the organs

It is a basic rotation of the five elements (fire, earth, metal, water, and wood) and five yin organs (heart, spleen, lungs, kidneys, and liver). Remember to link the breath and focus to each organ. Visualize and feel the expanding and contracting movement of each organ.

Overall, approach this meditation with a light intention; soft focus; gentle grounding; and a little humor.

And lastly, relax. After all, that’s the goal!


Mary Ann Petersen, LAc, MAcOM practices acupuncture at Good Medicine in Eugene, Oregon.